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We all know how important prototyping is in any business. It is easy for anyone to make generalizations and blanket explanations of how prototypes work that “help” the common engineer. But what if we took it a step further and actually engaged the engineers themselves in their perspective fields and asked them why prototyping is so important? Engineers who use prototypes on a regular basis and have needs that can’t be covered by generalizations. Engineers that yearn for understanding, acceptance, and just a bit of respect. What if we allowed them to compile a list of things you can learn from a prototype? It’s a whole lot better than having some half-wit, Wikipedia-driven Tumblr expert with no engineering background or experience try to pinpoint what is actually needed in the field right now.

Well folks, that’s exactly what we did. We interviewed three engineers from three different engineering fields: mechanical, electrical, and industrial, and asked them about prototyping and what specifically gets them off or just plain pisses them off. From these interviews, we compiled our list. No, I mean, an actual legitimate list from legitimate working engineers. Thrilled yet? We thought you might be.


1) Prototypes test FIT AND FUNCTION.

Take, for example, a company like Case-Mate. Phone cases are made even before the new phone is released. A project engineer needs to know everything about a potential case, such as the comfort of the case in a person’s hand, how it covers and protects the phone, and how to package the phone case once it is ready to be shipped to stores. Without good quality prototypes, it would be impossible to produce a viable product. A project engineer at Case-Mate uses prototypes daily (yes, daily) to answer these questions. No one likes running blind, and prototypes help shed light on questions that have to be answered. Now.


2) Prototypes show ACTUAL WEAR AND TEAR.

If time permits, prototypes have the ability to show how the finished product will withstand the test of time. This is why it is so important to have the prototype produced from the actual materials used to make the finished product. An EE developing cores for thermal imagers needs to know that a casing prototype works with the electronic equipment. Does it stand up to extreme environments like the ones firefighters face every day? If it doesn’t, firefighters can’t find victims through the smoke in a burning building. This means people die. That’s right, engineers are freaking HEROES. And these engineers deserve prototypes that can be put through the ringer and still come out in one, preferably working, piece. Run it over, throw it against the wall, or shoot it with a bazooka. Is it still working afterwards?


3) Prototypes test if the design is AFFORDABLE.

What is the point of having the most epic design in the history of epic designs if the cost of production makes it impossible to produce? No one wants to pay $350 for a phone case (unless that phone case also makes you breakfast in the morning. Bacon. We like bacon.) If a prototype can be produced that is cost effective for the company without sacrificing quality, then chances are that the finished product will sell as long as there is a market interest. And that company will make a nice little profit in the process.


4) Prototypes raise CONSUMER INTEREST.

Conventions and design conferences are great ways to get your product out there, but carting around a CAD drawing does little for investors and consumers who need tangible examples of the product on which they wish to spend their money. That’s like ordering a pizza and having the empty box delivered to your door. Prototypes need to emulate every aspect of the actual product within the specified tolerances. Suppliers are key here because you want someone who will create the very best prototype for the occasion. Visiting suppliers before utilizing their services helps weed out those that are sloppy and those that are superior, just like sampling pizza parlors. Mmmm, knowledge.



Industrial designers love prototypes because they help flush out mistakes in current designs and pave the way for new designs. Prototypes have the ability to show how today’s “big thing” is actually not that big and can be improved upon. Even though a designer may not know exactly how to improve a rendering by looking at the CAD drawing, a prototype may be able to show improvements clearly and even inspire the designer to try something new that he or she would not have known was possible without seeing the physical prototype.


And since prototype is usually another word for the phrase, “I need it yesterday!” Quickparts is a great resource for engineers who are constantly under a time crunch. Simply create an account online, submit your 3D design, get a quote, and have it printed. Fast. Each customer is assigned a project manager to ensure production goes smoothly, so you never lose that personal touch.



Today’s blog is by Jon Fidler, digital artist, who created and fabricated 26 3D letters for a collaboration project called ‘Architypo’ with Ravensbourne, UK-based digital media university, and Johnson Banks.

Here at Ravenbourne, a London-based digital media university, we have just completed a collaboration project with London-based design studio Johnson Banks, setting about to create an ‘alphabet of alphabets’ and 3D print a complete set of 3D letters, each showcasing the character and history of a particular typeface.The project came about to develop a means of testing and showcasing our in-house 3D prototyping technology. For each of the letters ‘A’ through ‘Z,’ the designers selected a typeface beginning with that character, which is used in the sculptural work. Each piece furthermore encapsulates a bit of the history of the typeface:

The ‘J’ adopts the form of a metro system map, because its fontface ‘johnston’ was originally designed for the London underground; the ‘C’ is composed of ‘courier,’ used in 1950s typewriters, and thus is composed of an assemblage of typewriter keys.

‘Arkitypo’ took over six months to complete. Johnson Banks first researched each letter and then developed drawings, maquettes, and simple 3D renders before transferring the imagery. Ideas came to us at Ravensbourne where we utilised our 3D expertise and further developed the 3D models, collaborating virtually with Johnson Banks before beginning the first test prints. For the creation of the letters, me and my student, Jason Taylor, used a combination of software, including Solidworks, Rhino, Autocad and 3Ds Max to obtain the required results, and in some cases the letters took days to model.

Due to the existence of over 26 letters, we required a lot of prototyping to be carried out, in order to visually analyse what the designs looked like. For this, our ZPrinter 450 stepped up to the plate and, within a couple of hours, allowed us to print scaled versions of the letters to gain a perspective on their appearance. Then, we quickly edited designs if needed and quickly printed again to check the results. We used the printer to print some of the final letters which included A,D,E,F,H,I,L,N,O,Q,R,S,V,W,X, and Z.  They can be seen below alongside the description. ‘O’ was a great example of where our ZPrinter was great! Using other machines, the software could not handle the complexity of the object, but we were able to open it up straight away in ZPrint software and print immediately. Because ZPrinters do not use physical support structures, we saved a lot of time processing the models.  We then used all of the data created for the models to create the visulisations that can be see in the video:

The complete alphabet, as well as some of the in-process renders are shown below:

The ‘A’ is composed of the typeface ‘akzidenz grotesk’ (1896). Among the first sans serif typefaces to be widely used, the design was part of a family of early san-serifs called ‘grotesques.’

The ‘B’ is composed of the typeface ‘bodoni’ (1798), modeled after ‘baskerville,’ but exaggerated in its weight, with heavier thick lines and thinner thin ones. The Johnson Banks sculpture highlights this history with a ‘bodoni’ ‘B’ that traces its origin to its ‘baskerville’ form.

The ‘C’ is composed of the typeface ‘courier’ (1955), originally commissioned for 1950s IBM typewriters. Johnson Banks designed their model out of typewriter keys, referencing the old days of manual processing and jammed machinery.

The ‘D’ is composed of ‘DIN 1451,’ the typeface selected in 1936 as the standard for German engineering and civil service projects.

The ‘E’ is composed of ‘engravers’ (1899), designed for metal engraving.

The ‘F’ is composed of the blackletter typeface ‘fraktur,’ modeled after antique carolingian minuscule and other handwritten designs in order to provide a standard typeface for a series of books by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. ‘Fraktur’ became the predominant style for the following centuries, until the 20th century, where it was ultimately banned by the Nazis in 1941. Here, Johnson Banks’ design alludes to the typeface’s close association with bookmaking.

The ‘G’ is composed of ‘gill sans’ (1933). Eric Gill, designer of the the typeface, is quoted as saying, ‘a pair of spectacles is rather like a ‘g;’ I will make a ‘G’ rather like a pair of spectacles;’ thus providing the reference point for the Johnson Banks model.

The ‘H’ is composed of ‘helvetica’ (originally ‘neue haas grotesk’, 1957; renamed in 1960). Latin for ‘Switzerland,’ the typeface became associated with both Swiss design and modernist industry and graphic design in general. The Johnson Banks sculpture assembles together the logos of some of the many corporations that use helvetica for their brand.

The ‘I’ uses ‘industria,’ originally designed by Neville Brody in 1984 for ‘The Face’ magazine.

The ‘J’ is composed of ‘johnston’ (1916), created for the London underground transit system, referenced by the Johnson Banks model.

The ‘K’ is composed of ‘kabel’ (1927), named in honour of the then newly-completed transatlantic telephone cable, which is the form utilized by Johnson Banks for the sculpture.

The ‘L’ is composed of ‘lubalin graph.’ The typeface was among the first slab serif alphabets for the phototypesetting industry.

The ‘M’ is based upon the ‘machine’ ITC typeface, often associated with industry, and thus already the influence behind the mechanical cogs used here to compose the letter.

The ‘N’ is created from the ‘new alphabet’ typeface (1967), a minimalist experimental font based on clean lines and precise angles.

The ‘O’ is composed of ‘OCR-A,’ whose strange characters filled the need for a font recognizable by both humans and the simple optical character recognition systems of early computers.

The ‘P’ is an assemblage of letters in the typeface ‘perpetua’ (1929). ‘Here,’ the designers of Johnson Banks explain, ‘It is set to perpetuate in an endless möbius strip of uppercase letters.’

The ‘Q’ is composed of the typeface ‘quadrate’ (2002), which appears even in 2D to have a 3-dimensional element. As a result, Johnson Banks sought to produce what the real 3D letter ‘could have been.’

The ‘R’ utilizes ‘retina’ (2002), Johnson Banks explains: ‘At large sizes ['retina'] seems to feature crude ‘notches’ cut into the letterforms, but these are there to compensate for the way blobs of ink blur type at tiny sizes.’

The ‘S’ is composed of ‘serifa’ (1966), a serifed adaptation of ‘univers.’ In reference of this history, here the letterform appears to launch from a ‘U’ sculpture in ‘univers.’

The ‘T’ is composed of ‘trajan’ (1989), a contemporary adaptation of the Roman capitals engraved on Trajan’s column in Rome. The historical monument itself can be climbed via an internal spiral staircase, to which the Johnson Banks ‘T’ sculpture makes reference.

The ‘U’ is stylized in ‘univers’ (1957), now one of the world’s most ubiquitous typefaces.

The ‘V’ is composed of ‘verdana’ (1996), designed for screen printing and bundled with early Windows software.

The ‘W’ utilizes the typeface ‘wilhelm klingspor gotisch,’ a blackletter design that draws from the curves of calligraphy, referenced in the Johnson Banks piece.

The ‘X’ is composed of ‘xheighter’ (1999), a tall, condensed sans serif whose form becomes emphasized in the skyscraper-like sculpture here.

The ‘Y’ features the typeface ‘DFP yuan.’ In addition to serving as the name for the country’s currency, ‘yuan’ in Chinese literally means ‘a round object’ or ’round coin’. Here, intersecting ‘¥’ symbols ‘create an endless circle of chinese money.’

The ‘Z’ is composed of the ‘zig zag’ art deco-style typeface, here interlocked into a zig-zagging puzzlelike form.

Project Info:
Design: Johnson Banks
Client: ravensbourne
3D imaging and prototyping: Jon Fidler and Jason Taylor
Photography: Andy Morgan
Project client: Jill Hogan
Project advisor: Ben Caspersz


Do you think 3D printing capabilities will evolve to the point where they’re good enough for low-volume production of parts for end use? Why?

This is an excellent question and one we have pondered for years. Since the inception of the “3D printer” in the mid-90’s by BPM, we have all wondered how long it would take to do 2 things: the first was to eliminate the need for traditional rapid prototyping equipment by having 3D printers in every office, and secondly, to evolve the traditional rapid prototyping system to become a low volume manufacturing solution. Neither of these “future developments” have transpired after 15 years, but they are both moving toward these ideals.

It is important to understand that there is a difference today between the 3D printer and the rapid prototyping system. They are both part of the additive fabrication type of manufacturing, which means the parts are made by building consecutive, very thin layers of the parts. So, for the purpose of this discussion, we will provide a distinct definition of each. A 3D printer is a device that manufactures parts layer-by-layer in an office environment with little to no technical skills required. A rapid prototyping system is a device that manufacturers parts layer-by-layer in a controlled environment and requires advanced technical skills and software.  Essentially, the 3D printer is analogous to your office printer that you “plug-and-play” and the rapid prototyping system is the large, complex printer you may see at your local copy shop.

As for the question on the future of low volume production from additive fabrication systems, I believe rapid prototyping systems will definitely become viable systems that provide low volume production parts. Actually, this has been occurring for years and becoming more prevalent.  We call this Low Volume Layered Manufacturing (LVLM), also known as Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) and it has some significant advantages, including the ability to have “tool-less” parts which allow you to change designs at anytime; design parts for the product instead of designing them for manufacturing (DFM); and the ability to consolidate many parts together which can reduce the number of unique parts in a product.

3D printing systems will continue to expand to the point that all design firms will have their own systems allowing them to make more “prototypes” than they do now. This will increase the quality of the product and reduce the time it takes to get it to market. Currently, it is possible to buy a reasonable quality system from $20K on up. With increased competition, the consumer will soon be able to buy high quality “prototyping” printers for less than $20K. This is analogous to consumer printers. At one time, we used to buy low quality dot matrix printers but now we buy high quality color laser printers for the same price.

In summary, additive fabrication of parts is amazingly powerful and will continue to develop into a major part of the product development process. As the technologies expand and the prices of systems decrease, we will be able to experience a whole new way to develop new products and launch the world into mass customization.

Visit for all your rapid prototyping and injection molding needs.

..:: 3D Printing has already started a revolution in the dental and prosthetics industries. Will we see improved organ transplants next? ::..

Rapid Prototyping | 3D Printing a Biological Revolution

3D Printing a Biological Revolution. Image provided by

Perhaps the most disruptive (in a good way) application of 3D printing in the medical world is “bioprinting”–the production of human organs for transplant.

The technology involves the creation of replacement tissues and organs that are printed layer-by-layer into a three-dimensional structure. The parts are made from the organ recipient’s own genetic matter, and precisely match the tissue or organ they replace. Think about it: skin, windpipes, bladders, and more complex structures like hearts, waiting to be printed on demand with the click of a computer mouse.

Since these printed organs or tissue are made from the patient’s own cells–rather than those of a donated heart or liver, for example–there’s little risk of an immune response, which lessens the need for debilitating immunosuppressive drugs.

The breakthroughs in bioprinting have been increasing in frequency. Like the race to the moon in an earlier era, the goal of bioprinting appeared lofty but attainable, and the first commercial 3D bioprinter was developed in 2009 by a bioprinting company called Organovo.

The San Diego-based company has signed collaborative partnerships with multiple pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, and leading research institutions, including Harvard Medical School and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. The primary market for its 3D NovoGen MMX bioprinters, at present, is academic institutions for disease research and pharmaceutical companies for drug testing, although the company is looking at hospitals as possible future customers.

To date, NovoGen prints simpler tissues like skin, heart muscle patches, and blood vessels, although the company anticipates printing out solid organs like hearts and livers within a generation.

Another type of 3D bioprinter is getting a workout at Wake Forest. In 2003, Dr. Atala and his colleagues published work in Nature Biotechnology showing that miniature kidneys could be engineered, and these experimental kidneys were shown to be functional; able to filter blood and produce and dilute urine. Wake Forest in now using a 3D bioprinter to engineer more sophisticated prototypes of these miniature kidneys. The goal is to make larger functioning kidneys and other solid organs like hearts and livers, in addition to solid organs like the uterus.

“Other applications that have also shown promise include ear, muscle, and the cartilage-bone interface,” Dr. Atala says.

..:: Content Provided by T.Rowe Price: Read more articles on 3D Printing by T.Rowe Price Here ::..

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Rapid Prototyping | ProJet and ZPrint SamplesWe recently added ZPrinter® and ProJet™ Technology to the expanding list of rapid prototyping processes available for online, instant quoting at

ZPrinters® create accurate parts with crisply defined features and precise full color, so you can evaluate physical models of design concepts in a nearly finished state.

ProJet™ prints precise, durable high definition parts with unmatched ultra-fine feature details. ProJet™ can print feature resolution as fine as 30–40 microns with 16 micron layers.

Click here to read the full story.

Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is the general art of creating new designs in such a way that they are easy and inexpensive to manufacture. Anyone who has ever designed a product to be injection molded likely learned along the way that small changes to the design could significantly impact the cost, time frame, and overall success of the manufacturing project.

This is true for any additive manufacturing project as well. Being aware of a few common mistakes made throughout the design process can help minimize costs and delays, and help prevent the creation and delivery of unsatisfactory parts that require further changes and rebuilds in order to meet the needs of the customer.

Pay close attention to not only the native CAD design of what is to be produced via additive manufacturing, but also the converted .STL version which is often required. The .STL file format is the standard data interface between CAD software and most additive manufacturing machines. A .STL file approximates the shape of a part or assembly using triangular facets.

“Even well conceived designs with the best of intentions can present a potential problem when converted to .STL format and submitted for additive manufacturing”, says Patrick Hunter, VP & General Manager of Quickparts ( “This is why we make a point to review the files our customers submit to us, and address any issues we find before parts are built, rather than after they are delivered”.

Before submitting a design for any additive manufacturing project, keep an eye out for these seven common mistakes concerning part design and file conversion.

1. The part design has thin features or walls that are less than .030” for standard resolution or .015” – .020” for high resolution machines.
Due to the “layer by layer” approach of the additive manufacturing process, anything smaller or thinner that this will often times not build and will not be present in the final model. Pay very close attention to raised or recessed logos and areas of small text, “knife edge” features which taper down to zero thickness, and curvy sections of any design where thickness can fluctuate.

2. The native CAD model is converted to .STL format with a very low resolution, resulting in heavy faceting in the model.
If the resolution of the .STL file is too low, the model will be faceted instead of having smooth surfaces and curves. This can be quite common and produces unattractive parts. Typically, to achieve a smooth finish on a model there should be an edge-to-edge distance of less than .020” between facets on the .STL file. Check the parameters on the native CAD program being used to determine the best method of exporting acceptable .STL files.

3. The original CAD data has numerous unstitched surfaces (rather than solids), resulting in errors when converting to .STL format.
Make sure that the surfaces in the original CAD model are “water tight”, in that only solids are modeled. The .STL file can also be inspected to ensure that all dimensions, part volume, and surface area all appear to be correct.

4. The part design has an enclosed hollow space from which support and build materials cannot be removed.
Any enclosed hollow void in the design will contain support materials which cannot be removed through the finishing process. This area may also be filled with unused resin or powder depending on the selected prototyping process. Consider filling in voids to be solid, building the design in halves to allow access to the enclosed space, or adding a hole of some kind in the model to allow for the removal of the support materials.

5. Assemblies, threads, and mating features are designed with improper clearance.
The standard tolerances for most additive manufacturing processes start at +/- .005” and compound from there as the design increases in size. It is not uncommon for first time customers to receive parts that, while within the published tolerances of the manufacturing process, do not “fit together” or mate up as intended. Typically, there should be a .015” – .020” clearance between mating parts, which is different from what is required for traditional injection molding. This is an important point to remember when the success of the project depends on how well different designs mate up or assemble with one another.

6. The design includes a living hinge which needs to function.
Living hinge designs on most parts produced via additive manufacturing don’t typically function as intended. The build material involved is often too rigid, especially in such a thin section, and will break. While there have been a few materials developed that look to address this need (the Duraform EX material using the SLS process can often work well), expect limited usage from a living hinge design produced via additive methods.

7. The units of measurement for the .STL file differ from what was intended.
Double check the .STL files properties to ensure that the correct unit of measurement is selected. This is especially true when there is more than one design with varying units of measurement being built together. Some CAD packages also have default settings where .STL files may be exported in a different unit of measurement from what was used during the design process. When there is a tight time line and the project is on the line, it can be difficult to see the comedy in dramatically oversized or undersized parts as they come out of the box.

Keep these seven common mistakes in mind when considering any additive manufacturing project. Be careful to confirm the integrity of the original CAD data, and be mindful of living hinge designs, enclosed or trapped hollow spaces, clearance between mating features, and any features or walls that are smaller or thinner than .030”. After exporting the .STL file from the native CAD file, take time to confirm that the overall resolution of the file is sufficient and that the selected units of measurement are correct.

Not Sure Which Additive Manufacturing Technology to Use?
If you are not sure which rapid prototyping process is best suited for your project, pick up the phone and give us a call at 770-901-3200, or send a quick email to Our team of professionals are very well versed in the strengths and weaknesses of each rapid prototyping process, and will help you make the best choice based on your unique situation and budget constraints.

The Next Step in the 3D Printing Revolution

Here’s a brilliant video by Dr. Lawrence Bonassar, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, describing a cutting-edge process he has developed in which he uses a 3D Printer and “ink” composed of living cells to create body parts such as ears.

The world of 3D Printing is continuing to expand to NEW and exciting heights!!

:: Check out the mainstream love 3D Printing received from USA Today: Click here to read the full story. | 3D Printing on USA Today

Congratulations to our January QuickNOTES trivia question WINNER!
….. L.G. from Woodstream Corp. (

Question: According to the “YouTube Videos” tab located on the Quickparts Facebook page (Watch it here!), what is the name of Johnny Quickparts’ love interest that is revealed in Episode 4: Johnny Learns About Stereolithography?

Answer: Dr. Wang

As a prize, L.G. will recieve one of our Reebok Play-Dry moisture wicking performance golf shirts, along with some other items. 

Thank you for your support of Quickparts!

Quickparts Performance Golf Shirt